Hunger for Justice

Every coach knows the turmoil of feeling like you’re on the receiving end of injustice. When an official errs in a way that could negatively affect your team and perhaps the outcome of the game, it bothers you. You address the injustice and do everything you can to get it corrected. Bigger picture, you might even advocate for rule changes or improved training for officials so that injustices like these are lessened or even eliminated.

Do you have a similar response to injustice beyond the sports arena? We’re continuing to look at Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) about the blessings of living under his reign as our King. According to Jesus, to follow him as our King is to care about justice: “God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6).

To hunger and thirst for justice – or “righteousness,” as other translations put it – is to desire God’s good intent for all people because every person is created in his image. Justice and righteousness reflect the character of Jesus. When we live under King Jesus’ reign through faith in him, his just and righteous character influence the way we live, the way we view other people, how we go about our relationships, and how we pray for our world. We long for God’s kingdom to come so that there is no longer oppression, inequality, or marginalization of anyone for any reason.

What does it mean to hunger and thirst for justice as a coach? In your program, it’s to desire God’s good intent for every person, to treat each person according to God’s righteous standards, to be an advocate for any person who is facing injustice or marginalization, and to teach them to value and demonstrate true justice. It’s a high calling! But hungering for justice also positions you to experience God’s blessings because this reflects his heart and his kingdom.

How do you live out this kingdom value in your coaching?

1. Feed dissatisfaction with injustice. Just as you’re bothered by unjust officiating in the sports arena, let injustices that your players or people in the world more broadly experience bother you even more. You feed dissatisfaction with injustice as you make the effort to really get to know both the unjust situations and the individuals in these situations. When you care about the people experiencing injustice or marginalization, you long for change.

2. Teach and advocate for what’s just and right. In his excellent book InsideOut Coaching, Joe Ehrmann shares about how he and his fellow coaches made educating their players about justice a priority. They taught and modeled for their players what it means to be an advocate for what’s just and right, and an ally for others encountering injustice. They also regularly discussed what it means to refrain from participating in any way in acts of injustice. As you do this with your team, you’re participating in King Jesus’ transformational work in their lives.

3. Stay focused on Jesus, the just and righteous King. The more you joyfully live under Jesus’ just and righteous reign through your relationship with him, the more you’re able to be a channel of his just and righteous work in the lives of those you influence. Staying focused on Jesus also strengthens our hope in the midst of the ongoing injustices all around us. We know that one day Jesus will return to bring in the fullness of his kingdom and set all things right.

It’s because of our hope and confidence in our just and righteous King that we’re given this promise: as we hunger and thirst for justice, we will be satisfied. As we long for and work for justice here and now, we’re building toward what Jesus will eventually make real when he returns. We’ll one day experience the complete satisfaction of living in the just and righteous kingdom of our Lord. We long for our players and others in our program to experience this satisfaction as well.

Coach, God has strategically placed you in a position to be a model of and advocate for justice that reflects his heart. Experience the blessings he promises as you hunger and thirst for justice that reflects Christ’s kingdom.

For reflection: Who in your program is experiencing injustice and needs an advocate? Ask the Lord for his wisdom regarding how you and others can respond. Pray for a growing hunger and thirst for justice.